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Grace Community Values Being . . .


Gospel Born

Mission Driven

Community Bound


Gospel Born

The Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ and the power of God’s kingdom have entered history to renew mankind’s brokenness and the brokenness of all creation. This renewing work of Jesus is what saves us from our sin and transforms us into His image (see Mark 1:1-8, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Romans 8:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 3:12-18).

The Gospel is not just a message for lost people, but also a message for believers that shapes every facet of our lives (at home, at work, and in our neighborhood).

At Grace Community the Gospel and the Grace it both communicates and delivers will shape all aspects of everything we do – from weekly worship services to children’s ministry to serving the city. We will be a gospel-saturated church.

Mission Driven

The Gospel doesn’t merely call us into a relationship with Christ and one another; it also sends us out into the world on mission (see Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8). It is our desire to see Grace Community be a church that both embodies and proclaims the Gospel winsomely in the city of Atlanta and around the world. The embodiment of the Gospel will be expressed in our love for the city as we meet its various physical, emotional, and social needs. The proclamation of the Gospel will be expressed through our intentional relationships with lost people as we love them and share Christ with them right where they are in our own network of relationships.

At Grace Community, our value for mission will drive us to develop future leaders for the purpose of releasing them to become tomorrow’s ministers, missionaries, and church planters. Our vision is not only to build one church, but to be a part of a movement of the Gospel expressing itself in the multiplication of disciples and churches both locally and around the world.

Community Bound

The Gospel is not simply a proclamation to be believed, but also a power to be experienced – individually and collectively. God Himself is a relational being, and He has created us to be relational beings as well. In short, we need each other and we are going to stop pretending that we don’t (see Acts 2:42-47).

The gospel shapes individual Christians into a new community of people who were formerly God’s enemies but are now reconciled to Him and adopted into his family. As we’re transformed by the Gospel we are called to love each other and care for each other as we love God together. As we live this way, we reflect to each other and to the rest of the world the love of Jesus Christ, and we become something that is irresistible to those who don’t know Jesus. The church is not a place, but a people – a community that is continually being reformed and renewed by the transforming power of the Gospel.

At Grace, the value community bound will drive us to be a simple church that resists complicated program-driven ministry models. We will value relationships vertical and horizontal over events, buildings, budgets, strong personalities and success as the world measure it.

Grace Community Values – What happens when a church values these things? The result is changed lives (joy, fulfillment, intimacy with Christ and each other) and a changed city.

Grace Community – Gospel Born, Mission Driven, Community Bound


Values lead to what we are and what we are not . . .


What is a Gospel-Born Church?

“The gospel is not just the A-B-Cs of Christianity. It’s the A to Z of Christianity. The Gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the kingdom.” – Tim Keller

In the world of Evangelical Christianity, gradually over several years, many of our churches have let the Gospel slip to the side in favor of another way to “draw people in” or “attract” them to church.

Some of the most prevalent things that can crowd-out the gospel are:

Moralism – using fear, rules and commands as the basis for discouraging sin and encouraging holy living. This sadly results in increased self-righteousness among the rule-keepers and despair in those who are unable to live-up.

Pragmatism – when in an effort to reach new people, church leaders spend more time teaching helpful techniques or useful principles than actually pointing people to the only thing that has the power to change both hearts and lives – the gospel.

Political Agendas – out of a desire to get involved in the public square and to influence policy, Christians
of every political stripe often begin to equate the spread of the gospel with the growth of a specific political party or platform.

Usually these isms start with a noble aspiration: a desire to help people change and grow, a desire to reach people far from God, a desire to use influence to change the way things are done. Unfortunately, when something other than God Himself is our primary goal, no matter how good that goal is, we will eventually start taking shortcuts to get what we want accomplished.

A Gospel-centered church understands that change or transformation of any kind, especially heart transformation, cannot happen apart from the Gospel of grace.

A Gospel-centered church keeps the focus of all its activity –teaching, worship, outreach, social justice and discipleship – centered on the riches of God’s grace available only through the sacrificial death of Jesus for sinners.

Because of this, a Gospel-born church is committed to:

  • Reading and teaching the entire Bible in light of the Gospel.
  • Preaching the Gospel to unbelievers and believers.
  • Leaders applying the Gospel first to themselves; church leaders are chief among sinners and therefore should be first among us to repent.
  • Cultivating a leadership culture marked by an increasing “Gospel astonishment.”
  • Being known for an atmosphere of grace; Gospel-centered churches are safe places for those outside the faith.
  • Producing people who don’t just know the doctrine of the Gospel but who also love Jesus.


What is a Mission Driven Church?

Just as many evangelical churches have become distracted and lost a sense of Gospel-centeredness, so have many lost the calling to actually bring the transformative message of the Gospel into contact with people.

Mission drift happens when a church lets something less important take-over: a building project, an unstated theology of “people should come to us,” or sometimes simple laziness. Sometimes an unspoken attitude of “those who don’t look like us, dress like us, vote like us, have the same skin color as us, or come from the same socioeconomic background as us are not really welcome here” hangs like a dark cloud over the church. That’s when the church stops reaching people.

As a church we cannot forget how much people need the Gospel. They need hope. They need grace. They need mercy. They need Jesus. We won’t forget it if we understand something simple yet mind-boggling: God became a man. The incarnation helps us understand and relate to people. While the cross provides the framework of our theology (what we believe about and how we understand God), the incarnation provides the framework of our missiology (what we believe about, how we relate to, and how we reach people and our culture).

While the cross is our message, the incarnation shapes and informs how we communicate that message. And what do we see in the incarnation? We see Jesus.

In Jesus the man, God moved into the neighborhood. He loved people. He spent time with people. He met people’s needs. He shared his life with people. He offered grace to sinners and he gave up his life so we could experience God’s forgiveness. He didn’t see people and culture as his enemies, but as broken treasures that he came to restore.

A missional church sees people and culture the same way. Because of this we will be committed to:

  • Faithful Contextualization – communicating Gospel truths in a way the culture understands
  • Producing missionaries rather than consumers – equipping people to live out the Gospel in their everyday lives and work
  • Building a great city, not just a good church – the goal is more than a full church, it’s a transformed city
  • Social Justice – healing real wounds and righting injustices in Atlanta and around the world
  • Church Planting – multiplying to new neighborhoods, states, and countries by starting new local churches

To sum up, Jesus not only lived among us, he also died for us. Therefore, being “mission driven” fails if it does not point to the cross. Through all we do, the message we’re translating for the culture is “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

What is a Community Bound church?

Biblically, the church, the ekklesia, is the gathered people who have been redeemed out of the world by the Gospel. Literally we are the “called out” people. It is our redemption in Christ Jesus that binds us together. We learn, assisted by the continuing grace of the Holy Spirit, to relate to each other because of that.

Let’s face it, we’ve done church otherwise in the past.  We have set up franchises or flavors. We have attracted people quite intentionally to a denomination, or style of worship, or beautiful building or a featured program (once youth, now children’s). We often begin way beyond the Gospel, never living life or relating at a called out level. We create small groups to compensate for the fact that we don’t know each other and didn’t value relationships first.

At Grace Community, we will value relationships from the beginning. With the Lord’s favor, will be a people who relate well to each other, bound to one another by the Holy Spirit, before we gather corporately or collectively. With favor we will esteem the ultimate things, loving God and loving neighbor, before we ever run the risk of not relating over the penultimate like styles of worship or beautiful buildings. The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12 that the church is always less than it could be when one meant to be a part of the Body chooses not to participate or is carelessly cast off.

James Bryan Smith wonderfully describes the church in The Good and Beautiful Community:

Communities become others-centered when they are steeped in the narrative of the kingdom of God. They know their community is an outpost of the kingdom of God, a place where grace is spoken and lived for as long as is needed. The value of the church is not in its longevity but in its love. The success of a church is not in its size but in its service to the people and community. We are a people founded by a person who never established a church or built a building or led a finance campaign to build impressive buildings. Our leader just came and served and then died for the good of others. I suppose that would be a pretty good mission statement for a church, but one I am not likely to see: “We exist to serve others and then die, just like our founder.”

This Will Look Like…

The Church Gathered

Weekly worship services

Our weekly worship services will be simple and mildly liturgical, a blend of ancient forms and contemporary spontaneity. It will look like church, not a concert. We will focus on expository sermons, authentic corporate worship and the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Because we value Gospel-centered ministry, we will preach and teach expository, Christ-centered, grace-saturated sermons that will lift-up the name of the Lord and inspire people to live in freedom, grace and obedience.

This Gospel-centered vision will also lead us to celebrate Communion weekly during our worship service. It’s our desire to frequently remember Christ’s body that was broken and blood that was shed and proclaim the Lord’s death until the day He comes to fully restore his people and his kingdom.

Community Groups

Our groups will be small communities of believers who share life together. We’ll eat in each other’s homes, practice hospitality, listen, talk, inspire, encourage and challenge. We’ll serve each other, our neighborhoods and our city … together. Community Groups are where the church is the church to one another and the city.

The Church Scattered

Missional Living

It’s our goal to not just talk about the gospel when we’re gathered together once or twice a week. Our calling is to LIVE the gospel everyday of our lives in the networks where God has placed us.

Missional living will take three different forms in our church:

Making Disciples – Living and speaking the gospel into the lives of the people God has placed around us in our everyday lives.

Justice Jesus’ heart was with the poor, the widow, the orphan and the prisoner. We will partner with ministries here in Atlanta and around the world that reach-out and share the love of Jesus with the last, the lost and the least. We do this not to make us feel good about ourselves, or because it’s the cool thing to do these days, but because we want to genuinely meet needs, and because ministering to the downtrodden is a beautiful picture of what Jesus does for his children.

Church Planting – Grace Community will prayerfully be large in gospel influence, but it may never be large in size. The reason why is because we will be a church planting church. We believe that planting new churches is the single best way to reach our city with the gospel. Therefore, when we reach a certain (as yet undetermined) size, we will train a new leader and send him out with people and money to plant a new church in the city. We will also continually support church plants in Atlanta and around the world.

Doctrinal Beliefs

Grace Community holds to the Creeds of the Great Tradition: TheApostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Chalcedonian Creed and The Athanasian Creed.

They can all be viewed here:

More specifically …

The above creeds explain, with very broad brushstrokes, what is basic, orthodox Christian faith. A more specific statement of faith can be found here:

And finally as a partner church in the Anglican Mission to the Americas we will esteem these core theological values/principles:

Core Values Shared by the People of Grace Community

These are the essential marks that shape our identity, guide our actions and are affirmed by every member:

Commitment to Jesus Christ: The People of Grace Community believe that salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone who is the only begotten Son of the Living God. Through Him, all who come to Him by faith and repent of their sins, receive forgiveness through Christ’s death on the Cross and live in newness of life through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. This new life of faith is to be marked by a joyful obedience to Jesus Christ, to God’s Word and to the leading of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 16:15-16; Ephesians 2:4-10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 5:22-25).

Authority of Scripture: The People of Grace Community believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in their entirety is God’s Word, and is the standard by which we are to order our lives, express our faith and function as a community (2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21).

Evangelism: The People of Grace Community believe that we are to live our lives, to make disciples and to grow our churches in a manner that expresses the loving and longing heart of God for those who are separated from Jesus Christ and His Church (Matthew 9:12-13; Luke 15; I Timothy 4:1-5).

Relational Ministry: The People of Grace Community are committed to ministry being accomplished in relationships which express the love, intimacy, and unity of God as revealed in the relationship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The People of St. Peter’s are committed to holding ourselves accountable before God and to one another. (John 13:34; 1 John 4:11-21).

Worship: The People of Grace Community are committed to worship in Word and Sacrament, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our worship — in glorifying God — is to be authentic and relevant to our cultural setting while remaining within the breadth of our Anglican Tradition (John 4:23-24; I Corinthians 11:23-26; Acts 17:22-24).

Servant Ministry: The People of Grace Community believe that every Christian is created for ministry, gifted for ministry and needed for ministry. We are, therefore, committed to equip, empower and release the faithful to use their spiritual gifts to glorify God and to build up the Body of Christ (Romans 12; I Corinthians 12-13).

Sacrificial Giving: The People of Grace Community believe that we are to be generous with our time, talents and money as we share with those in need, support the work of God among us, and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ (I John 3:17-18; Ezra 2:68-69; Acts 2:44-47).

Biblical Leadership: The People of Grace Community are committed to identifying and training emerging
leaders who are committed to Christ and to reaching their generation with the Gospel. This will require of those seeking leadership in St. Peter’s an authentic faith, Godly character, and a servant’s heart (Luke 22:27; Romans 12; I Corinthians 12:1-13).

Expectant Prayer: The People of Grace Community believe that nothing of significance happens in God’s Kingdom in the absence of prayer. Therefore, we seek to make prayer a priority — inviting God to lead, restore, heal and transform our lives, our churches, our communities and the world (John 14:15-31; Luke 11:1-13).


How will it get started?

What’s the Plan?

This is the ever present question surrounding the planting of Grace Community here in Northeast Atlanta. What is the plan, John?

The first step in the plan is to pray. This is the premier step in discerning the will of God as opposed to the will of man, even my most considered plans for launching a church. Unless the Lord builds Grace Community, my efforts and those of other men will surely be in vain.

The next step is to meet people and build relationships. The old way of doing church was to open a franchise. Demographics suggest that there is a need for a church generally and our flavor specifically. So we build a building or these days rent space in a strip center. We open for corporate gatherings. Those that were raised Anglican look for an Anglican church. Likewise for Methodists, Lutherans, and Baptists look for the corner church with their flavor.

And in many ways we continue to operate the same way, out of an aging and failing model. Churches attempt to draw a crowd to a flavor. Traditional, contemporary, formal, casual, liturgical, and free form – these are many of the ways in which we describe church. Distinctions are made in the way we worship, what happens when we gather the assembly. The distinctions in worship assume we all believe the same thing about the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That may not be an assumption we should take for granted.

Regardless, using a flavor to create a crowd (or church) makes something other than the main thing the main thing. How we worship is what unites a people (call it church or community) fashioned in this way. By design, what should be universal in scope is reduced to something very specific, and that something is fleeting. As Dean Inge said, he who marries the spirit of the age finds himself soon widowed. Flavors change. I once love chocolate ice cream. Then it was praline almond crunch. Now, when I allow myself to indulge, it is chocolate chip cookie dough or better yet, Cherry Garcia. Tastes change.

Church growth or planting should be rooted in the eternal, the one who was, and who is, and who is to come. The Body can only be built out of members who have a deep relationship with Jesus. The Body is first and foremost the assembly of people who have been called out of the world and into a relationship with Him. Believers are then drawn into a relationship with each other. We are the called out people undivided by race, gender, socioeconomic class and certainly undivided by flavor.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a personal preference for worship. This is unavoidable and perhaps should not be avoided at all. But our relationships with Jesus and with each other should transcend flavors. “I don’t like the kneeling.” “I really don’t care for the drums.” “I think the music is too loud.” I think the band members should wear khakis not jeans.” “I” and my flavor become central to the equation as opposed to Jesus and our fellowship in Him. Unfortunately I’ve experienced this often throughout the years.

The Apostle Paul helps us here. In the opening verses of Romans 12 Paul is revealing what our response to the great mercies of God should be. To offer ourselves as living sacrifices, this is our reasonable worship. Living daily as a sacrifice is a 24/7 (read “universal”) proposition and can never be captured by finite flavors.

As a planter the Lord has put it upon my heart to keep the main thing the main thing, or first things first. While the Lord will dictate where Grace Community goes, I imagine one day that one of the called out people, a people He has forged beginning with a life-giving relationship with Him, will suggest all the called out people gather corporately to worship. If so, we will have been followers, individually and together, before we pursued a means of corporately expressing that we are fans.

So pray and build relationships. That is the initial plan. Remembering all the while, that while we plant and water, it is God Himself who gives the growth.


So What Can You Do?


More than we could ever understand, we need many, many people to pray for the birth of Grace Community.  We believe the spiritual realm is real and that our enemy is not happy about new churches being planted. Our lead pastor and our eventual launch team will have to endure many attacks and much spiritual warfare, so please pray.  Pray for the Richardson.  Pray for our children.  Pray for the formation of our launch team.  Pray for Atlanta and specifically the Brookhaven area.  Pray that we could build relationships that will open up doors for the gospel.  Pray for our neighbors and neighborhoods, that people would be sensitive to the Lord’s calling.  Pray that, despite our current economic climate, God would raise up generous individuals and organizations who will give financially.


Maybe you should consider joining us on this wild ride of planting a new church.  Do you have hopes of living for something greater than yourself? Are you a dreamer, a builder, a risk taker?  Pray. Pray and ask God if Grace Community is where he wants to use you to reach your world.


Our goal is for Grace Community to be completely self-sustaining by the end of our second year.  Presently we are funded through a gracious grant from the Church of Jesus Our Shepherd and the fundraising efforts of our lead pastor.

Presently gifts will go toward salaries and benefits and will eventually cover administrative costs, staffing strategic leaders, promotional resources, and facility rental once we launch. As the community comes to stand on its own, its financial planning should include generous giving for outreach and mission.

We’re looking for individuals and churches to consider prayerfully joining us as financial partners. Some have the resources to give boldly and consistently throughout our first year, others can only commit at this time to a one-time gift.  In the life of a young, mission church plant, every dollar truly makes a difference.

To give, make checks payable to:

Jesus Our Shepherd Kingdom Project

For Grace Community

C/o Bill DeBardeleben

1003 Rockbridge Road

Stone Mountain, GA 30087


Does Atlanta really need another church?

The short answer … absolutely!

As you drive through the metro Atlanta area it seems like there’s literally a church on every corner. There couldn’t possibly be a need for YET ANOTHER one added to the glut, could there?

Actually, there is a great need for MANY new churches in Atlanta. Here’s why:[1]

-New churches best reach the unchurched.

Studies show that the average new church gains most of its new members (60%-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any church, while churches over 10 years old gain 80%-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations. This means that the average new congregation will bring six to eight times more new people into the Body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size.

-Jesus’ essential call was to plant churches.

Virtually all the great evangelistic challenges in the New Testament are basically calls to plant churches, not simply to share the faith.

The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) is not just a call to “make disciples” but also to “baptize.” In Acts and elsewhere, it is clear that baptism is to be practiced within a worshipping community with accountability and boundaries (Acts 2:41-47).

-The only way to be sure we’re creating permanent new Christians is to plant new churches.

Much traditional evangelism aims to get a “decision” for Christ, but many times these “decisions” disappear and never result in a changed life. We see it all the time. Why? Because many of these “decisions” are not being made in the context of an on-going, worshipping, shepherding community – a church! Nothing else – not crusades, outreach programs, or para-church ministries – can be sure of leading people into a vital, saving faith like a local church. Leading missiologist C. Peter Wagner says, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.”

-Younger adults are disproportionately found in new congregations.

Why? Because traditions of older churches (time of worship, length of service, emotional responsiveness, sermon topics, leadership style, emotional atmosphere, etc.) reflect the sensibilities of leaders from older generations who have the influence and the resources to influence the life of the church.

-New congregations better reach new residents.

Why? In long-established churches, it may require tenure of ten years or more before you are allowed into places of leadership and influence. In a new church, however, new residents tend to have equal leadership opportunities and influence with long-time area residents.

New congregations better reach new social groups.

New congregations empower new people much more readily than older churches. This means church planting is not only for “foreign religions” or “pagan” countries that we are trying to see come to Christ. Christian countries will have to maintain vigorous, extensive church planting simply to stay Christian.

Eye-Opening Statistics [2]

-Between 50 and 75 churches in America close their doors every week.

-More than 80% of the churches in America have plateaued or are declining.

-In the US, there are over 200 million unchurched people, making it the third largest mission field in the world.

-Since 1991, the number of US adults who do not attend church has doubled.

-Eight million US twenty somethings will not attend church by the time they are thirty.

Eye-Opening Perspective [3]

In 1820 there was a church for every 875 Americans. From 1860-1906, Protestants planted a new church for every population increase of 350. By 1900, we had one church for every 430 people. In 1906, one-third of all congregations in the country were less than 25 years old. As a result, the percentage of the US population involved in the life of the church rose steadily. For example, in 1776, 17% of the US population was “religious adherents,” but that rose to 53% by 1916. After WW1, however, church planting plummeted. Once the country was covered by established towns with established churches, there was resistance from those churches to any new church moving into “our neighborhood.”

Statistics show that most churches reach their peak size during the first 25 years and then plateau or shrink. In general, older churches have a hard time reaching new residents, new generations, new social groups and unchurched people. As these groups increase in a community, the original churches reach a smaller and smaller segment of their town, and the percentage of unchurched people increases. Nevertheless, older churches often fear competition from new churches and often oppose them. Mainline churches, with their centralized governance, have most adamantly opposed church plants, and as a result have shrunk the most.

Church attendance overall in the US today is shrinking. This cannot be reversed in any other way other that the way it originally had been so remarkably increasing – by planting new churches. It is unlikely that we can ever plant a church for every 500 people again, which resulted in over 50% of the population becoming churched Christians, but we sure can try!

[1] Keller, Tim. Redeemer Church Planting Manual. New
York, Redeemer Presbyterian church. PP 29-32

[2] Barna Research,

[3] Keller, Tim. Redeemer Church Planting Manual. New
York, Redeemer Presbyterian church. PP 29-32

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Weekend Masses in English

Saturday Morning: 8:00 am

Saturday Vigil: 4:30 pm

Sunday: 7:30 am, 9:00 am, 10:45 am,
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